NRL squad realigned for 2016

Contract extensions have been confirmed for NRL rookie Albert Vete, Jonathan Wright and promising NYC players Nathaniel Roache and Marata Niukore as the Vodafone Warriors continue to shape and realign their squad for the 2016 season and beyond.

Vete has been signed until the end of the 2017 season after appearing in 12 of the club’s 15 NRL games so far this season. Roache has also been signed for two seasons while Wright and Niukore have signed for one.

The signings follow the club recently securing Kiwi stars Issac Luke and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck on three-year contracts along with new deals for three other NRL rookies – Tuimoala Lolohea, Solomone Kata and Sam Lisone – as well as outstanding Vodafone Junior Warriors captain Toafofoa Sipley, who will join the NRL squad next year.

While Ben Matulino, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei and Ben Henry had their contracts extended earlier this season, a number of players are leaving the Vodafone Warriors this year.

Fullback Sam Tomkins has been released and will rejoin Wigan after this season while veteran prop Sam Rapira is in his 10th and last NRL campaign with the club before he links up with Huddersfield in the English Super League.

Prop Suaia Matagi, Nathaniel Peteru and Api Rewhairangi have already departed for other clubs. Also leaving at the end of the year is Vodafone Junior Warriors fullback Brad Abbey.

Another player finishing with the club is standoff Chad Townsend, who has been released at the end of the season to return to Sydney on compassionate grounds.

“There has been a lot of activity in terms of players being signed or retained along with a number being released or not being re-signed,” said Vodafone Warriors managing director Jim Doyle.

“This is all part of the process we’re working through with (head coach) Cappy (McFadden) and his assistant coaches to realign our NRL squad to meet the needs they have identified.

“Some hard choices have already been made and there are likely to be more but this is critical in our mission to both build and improve our NRL squad to a point where it is as strong as any in the competition.”

While McFadden said the 2015 campaign is his priority he’s excited about the outlook for 2016 and beyond.

“We’ve made two terrific signings in Issac and Roger and we’ve also worked hard to retain a lot of our experienced and emerging players,” he said.     

“We’ll always be a development club given the great pool of players we can draw on here in New Zealand but retention and recruiting quality players is a key as well to ensure we have the right blend of experience across the squad.”

McFadden said he was delighted with the progress Vete (22) had made this season after being on trial during the offseason. Along with Lisone he had earned selection through his deeds and his form in the trials.

Roache (19) and Niukore – who turns 19 this month – will still be eligible for the NYC next year but McFadden said they both appealed as players who would play a big part in the future.